Wed 12th August 2015
Day 4 Missoula, MT to Portland, OR
16 Hours – 547 Miles – 4 States MT+ID+WA+OR
Arriving early in Missoula last night afforded us the luxury of time to find a good dinner. Our hotel was on the edge of town and we didn’t fancy a drive through the streets in the truck so we unloaded the car from the trailer and made our way to the restaurant.
We tossed a coin to decide between two restaurants but, after stepping in the first establishment and lowering the average age by about 20 years we ignored the coin’s command, turned round and left the silently feasting octogenarians to their soft food and got pizza in a great, lively place across the street; Biga. Highly recommended by Cooper & Cooper.
We hit the road early this morning and were back out on 90 heading west before dawn to begin the final leg of our journey. The morning’s drive was without doubt the most beautiful of the entire trip.
The sun had not quite risen above the mountains behind us so the the hills and cliffs which lined the winding road appeared as if covered by a grey filter. The greens were darker, the rivers flowed mysteriously slowly as there was no light to reflect on the surface ripples.
Gradually the same rocks and trees which were muted in colour before started to come to life and take on an orange glow as the sun rose high enough to reach these hidden parts of the mountain.
Around the border between Montana and Idaho almost every turn we made would reveal another stunning view of a river cutting through the bottom of a valley or a shear rock face reaching up almost our out view. It reminded me of a scene from a wilderness documentary or a movie about some great American pioneering adventure and then I realised…this IS the wilderness, this IS the landscape the pioneers had to encounter. Obviously, we are barely scratching the surface and navigating the safest, least isolated route but I can only imagine what it would be like to really head out in the hills.
The engineering which went into building this highway is mind blowing. I cannot imagine what it would have been like to be the first guy up the mountain to build these roads.
After a time the mountains gave way to flatter terrain and eventually, by the time we crossed into Washington, we were sounded by fields of wheat for as far as the eye could see. The contrast in colour from the mountains could not have been more stark and further on, that contrast grew. As we got further West the fields of crops disappeared and were replaced by a baron, almost bleached desert like landscape. There was a haze that hung in the air all around us which softened the blue of the otherwise cloudless sky and gave the view a desaturated beauty.
When we had stopped for lunch we saw on the news that a massive forest fire had been burning not far away on the border or Oregon and Idaho. That must have ben the cause of the eery haze as the lack of any substantial metropolitan areas in the vicinity meant it could not have been a man made smog.
The last 150 miles or so into Portland were spectacular. The highway runs along side the Columbia River next the the train tracks. Beyond us to our left were hills, cliffs and mountains that lined the valley which we and the river ran through.
The trees which populated the sides of the valley were almost like a guard of honour honouring our arrival and seeing us safely into the city.
However that was the last thing of beauty we were to see on the journey. We had travelled across the United States on our noble quest just as Frodo and Samewise traversed the lands of Middle Earth. Now we had reached our Mount Doom…the unloading.
A few days ago Josh and I briefly spoke about this event. He said it would probably take us around 3 hours. “3 hours?” I scoffed, “We can get it done in 1”. what a fool was I. I had underestimated the depth of the truck and so, just as Frodo made his way to the precipice over looking the fiery depths of Tolkien’s fabled mountain and saw the lava below, I opened the back of the truck and saw boxes…and furniture…and bikes and Portland had obligingly raised the temperature of the surrounding area so that is was akin to the blazing heat of the inside of the fictional volcano.
We battled through and after nearly three hours and the loss of, what I can only estimate was several gallons of sweat, we had finished. Or so we thought.
Just as we thought we thought we were on the home stretch Gollum ran up from behind and jumped, kicking and screaming, upon our back. We had to deal with the trailer.
After having unloaded the truck the last thing either of us wanted to do was move a giant car trailer by hand, but we did it, because, hey, Frodo and Sam didn’t complain when they moved to Portland did they?
It was eventually dark by the time we had ascertained that the epuipment which raises the trailer high enough to attach it to the tow bar of the truck was almost completely useless. Turning the handle to extend the support leg took both of us and all our strength. This faulty jack would not have been as much of a problem had we not already emptied the contents of the container. The lack of weight in the back had raised the tow bar by several inches. And so, after retrieving the car jack from the car, and 2 large bricks, and after making 3 attempts punctuated with having to move the truck as we were blocking the entrance to the storage facility, we had finished. The trailer was attached. We had cast the ring deep into the flaming depths of the mountain to meet its infernal death. Cooper & Cooper had triumphed and we rewarded by a beer, a slice of pizza and a shower.